Guilty plea over hunting death

22:56, Nov 01 2012
Blair Davidson
Blair Davidson.

A 25-year-old man today pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter following a hunting incident in Southland earlier this year where a man was shot in the face.

Blair John Davidson, shepherd, of Waikaka, appeared in Invercargill District Court today before Judge Kevin Phillips for failing to take reasonable precautions while in control of a rifle, causing the death of Mark Richard Vanderley on April 29.

He was remanded on bail to December 17 for sentence in the High Court.

The police summary of facts, which was not read in court, says Davidson and five men, including Vanderley, were on Glenlapa Station - a large, high country station in Northern Southland including more than 4000 hectares. The group planned to spend the weekend hunting for fallow and red deer.

During the day all members of the group had hunted on the property before returning to the hut later in the afternoon. They had all consumed alcohol during the day, it says. They left the hut in a four-wheel-drive at about midnight and planned to spotlight for animals and at about 3am they noticed several deer in a turnip paddock.

The vehicle was stopped and deer were shot at. Three members of the group, including Vanderley and Davidson, went up and recovered one deer, which Davidson gutted and took back to the truck, the summary says.


A third member of the group went to help and continued up to the top area of the turnip paddock with Vanderley and began to search the hill area for the other deer. They were guided by other members of the group, including Davidson, who were yelling at them from the truck, where they were operating spotlights.

According to the summary, both Vanderley and his friend had lights with them and Vanderley was wearing a headlamp while his friend was wearing a high visibility jacket with reflectorised tape.

While Vanderley and the other person were searching for the wounded deer, people back at the truck saw what they thought was another deer and Davidson fired one shot at it, which missed.
The search continued using spotlights when Davidson told both parties on the hill to stay still because he had seen another deer in the area.

Davidson took another shot, which hit Vanderley in his left cheek. He was killed instantly, the summary says.

The distance between Davidson and his friend on the hill wearing the jacket was about 5 to 10 metres and the distance between the truck and Vanderley was 206m. The area where he was shot was an open paddock with clear visibility, it says.

Authorities were called and Davidson was taken back to the Gore Police Station where his breath alcohol reading was taken at 275mcg five hours after the shooting.

When spoken to by police he admitted he had been drinking throughout the day and an ESR calculation based on the reading taken at the station gave an estimate of his level being between 500 and 700mcg at the time of the shooting, it says.

Davidson said he had known Vanderley since they were about five or six years old and thought 100 per cent it was a deer he was shooting at. He said he believed he was an experienced firearm user and thought Vanderley was near the truck, it says.

He also said he believed he was firing at an animal and said, "it was on his head and no one else's and that was what you take on when you have a firearms licence and a gun."

He accepted it was a clear and major rule to identify targets but he was 100 per cent sure he had.

The Southland Times